London, Great Britain, August 5, 2012 – Proudness. This is the feeling which literally permeates Milagros Cabral’s interviews. The proudness results from participating in the Olympic Games with Dominican Republic and from having her flag on the shirt. There is another word that regularly comes up across her interviews. “Niños”: kids. She is and she considers herself a role model for all the children in her country. They represent her mission just after the Olympic Games in London because Milagros Cabral, 33-year-old spiker of the Dominican Republic, has heart and soul.
“I’m so happy that we made it to the quarter finals. This was our first target here in London, and we got it.”
The second target has a violet color and now it’s disassembled and hidden in the storage rooms of Earls Court: it’s a three-step podium which will be used on Saturday, August 11. “We want to step onto the podium. We know we can do it. We played well, we played at the level of this tough competition and we will give our utmost. We will face USA, one of the best teams in the world, now probably the best. We often play with them and we know them very well, since we’re from the same area, Norceca. They are a compact team, difficult to beat, but we will do our best.”
Milagros’ giant pictures are now everywhere: arms crossed, fierce look, in the classic photo position for the FIVB Heroes campaign. She’s a player who endorsed Dominican volleyball around the world since she played professionally in Spain, Italy, Russia, Puerto Rico and Korea. “It’s a big satisfaction to be part of this group of players. It’s a dream that comes true. It means a lot for my country as well, because thanks to the Heroes I believe I can inspire many children in the Dominican Republic who are dreaming about being in my place. There are children imagining every day to be a hero. I give them my helping hand. I really feel like if I was Superman.”
Milagros clearly remembers when she was young, when she jumped off the bed thinking about becoming a volleyball star. She was fourteen, then.
“When I was young, I was a dreamer. I had a dream for my life, I wanted it strongly, and now I got what I was dreaming of. Yes, I was fourteen when I stepped into a volleyball court. I enjoyed it so much and I asked my mother to give me the possibility to stay, to continue to play for the selection I joined. My mother said “You have one year”. I clearly have in mind that moment. My mum wanted me to continue with the school, to go to the university. I used my chances.”
The generation of Milagros was the start of the volleyball development project in Dominican Republic which in ten-year time put the team among the best women’s teams in the world.
“The project of our federation was really fruitful. You can see it since we’re here at the Olympic Games. In our country we do a fantastic work with grassroots. We start with the beginners, we have a number of coaches not only from Dominican Republic, but from Cuba or Brazil as well. Their objective is to teach you to become a good player, starting from the very beginning. And of course your career can continue with youth and junior, but the work on the basis of the sport is the most important”.
In Athens Dominican republic marked their debut. They did breathe a different atmosphere, back then. “We are here and we’re fully conscious of our strength. In 2004 we had our Olympic debut and that was different. We arrived in Athens and it was like “Wow! An Olympic Game…” Now we are more solid as a team, we can stay among the strongest teams in the world and go for a medal.”
However London is the last metro stop for Cabral’s career. “After the Olympics I will stop playing, I will leave my place to the new generation. Believe me, there’s a new young group of players who’s really strong, girls everybody will talk about in the upcoming years. I will dedicate myself to study sport administration and I’ll try to help the kids of the suburbs in my country. I want them to fulfill their own dream as I did when I was a child.”
Editor’s Note: As expected, the United States’ Women’s Vollyeball team advanced to the semifinals after defeating the Dominican Republic on Tuesday in three straight sets 25-14, 25-21, 25-22.